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Blog entry 5

Two Roads Of Life

As we now face the task of recovering from our covid-19 hibernation, we will be challenged to make major adjustments to our lives and social behavior. So many conflicting feelings have been stirred up over the last few months. These feelings, as with all feelings, are a reflection of our ways of thinking.

Using excerpts from my manuscript of my 45 years of clinical practice, my previous four blog entries have tried to focus readers to consider taking a different point of view regarding events that have happened in our lives. From being either a white blood cell or virus person, to finding ways to forgive, resolve exposed nerves and findings one’s WOW, there has always been a reference to the basic philosophy to life that defines our path. Today I would like to explain this dynamic further, the Failure Road of Life vs the Experience Road of Life.

Anyone, child or adult, follows a path throughout life. It is especially important to understand that on this path we have learned to make our own feelings based upon how we have learned to think about and or interpret what is happening around us. It comes down to the way we believe that will affect how we interpret sensory input and the actions we choose and the feelings we experience. In this process information is picked up through our senses and quickly filters through our way of thinking. It is essential to accept that thinking always precedes feelings and actions even if we are not aware of our thinking.

As we go through this life journey we are usually guided by a central point of view or set of beliefs. I break it down to two roads of life that usually makes up our programming or philosophy to life. It is this philosophy that will guide our lives. When we struggle there is a conflict centered around this controlling philosophy. To simplify it I try and contrast the old conflicted program I call the Failure Road of thinking with the new more adaptable program I call the Experience Road of thinking.

People who live on the Failure Road often feel more severe disappointment and extreme emotional issues such as anger and depression. When something goes wrong on the Failure Road, people start to think that it is Horrible Awful and Terrible (HAT), and start demanding, catastrophizing and blaming. As an example, suppose one takes a test and it does not go well. Failure Road thinking is to get all caught up with negative emotions. This is a stupid test it should not be so hard, he is a stupid teacher, and they think I am stupid, or I am so stupid. They usually quit and withdrawn angrily or get depressed. Living on this road over a lifetime will lead to an unhappy life and a history of underachievement.

People on the Failure Road more often expect the worst-case scenarios to consistently happen. They become afraid to take risks because of what could happen. They live afraid of change. They believe that if something goes wrong then they will die! People on the Failure Road are often very afraid of the unknown. It is like being afraid of the dark. Since I can’t see where I am going, I can’t risk getting hurt or dying. I better not take a risk.

People who live on the Experience Road of life usually have a happier and more fulfilling experience of life. These people accept that failure does not exist. They see every moment as an experience that teaches us something.

Experience Road thinkers tend to live in the here and now. They have learned to not dwell on the past. They also try not to get too far ahead of themselves over focusing on the future. We can look forward, but the present events will have a greater impact on the unwritten future.

When someone on the Experience Road does poorly on a test they have a whole a different perspective. They examine what they learned from the poor grade. With problem solving and brainstorming they can find many lessons. Did I study my biologically correct way? Was the TV on and was a distraction? Were my notes in order? Did I forget to plan for studying? Did I seek extra help to understand the material? Did any horrible, awful or terrible event happen because I did poorly? The answers to these questions will give us valuable information on where to improve. It was therefore a great learning experience!

They pick themselves up and seek out facts. They accept that it was mostly only frustrating, annoying and disappointing, which are easier feelings to live with. They do not put themselves down and they keep up a positive attitude. They try to make the best of their lives while they still have some control and choices. On this road, you live in the present without being overly focused on the future. The past is done and gone but you live on to explore life and all it can be. The Experience Road way of thinking is the light they take with them into the unknown. It is only in the unknown where new possibilities exist. Doing the same non-productive things repeatedly is a waste of time, energy and life.

We never fail we only learn! Every experience has something to teach us. We only succeed!

People on this path have often more self-esteem and self-confidence. Not believing in the terror of failure they spend more effort focusing on and trusting in their abilities. People on the Experience Road believe in the following concept. That if you make a reasonably good effort you should usually expect a reasonably good result.

A life’s journey is a path of endless and infinite experiences. At each point along this journey we receive vast amounts of knowledge. No matter the emotion of that moment, we gain invaluable lessons that can be used to shape and grow our destiny. I call this journey the Experience Road of life.

The Experience Road has been the foundation of my life and work. It is a perspective that encourages focusing on the lessons that we learn from our experiences. It is an encouraging and helpful guiding philosophy to life. How we think or what we believe in helps us to adjust and grow from life’s daily interactions

As a clinician, the many years of experiences have taught me valuable lessons that I have used to develop and refine my treatment protocols. The Experience Road also reflects a philosophy that guides my life. It is a viewpoint I live by and try to teach all my clients. This perspective rejects the concept of failure. Every event or experience will have a lesson to learn. If we learn even one thing from any event it is a success. Therefore, I only succeed I never fail. This way of thinking allows for growth while focusing on failure will often yield obsessing on negative non productive emotions and behaviors.

The challenge for society of coming to terms with the covid-19 experience will be extremely difficult. The road of life we live on will determine how we best adjust. Will we take important lessons from it and make important new adjustments or will we choose to run and hide from our future blaming, catastrophizing and demanding the old ways.

Dr. Mike

Clinical psychologist 45 years in practice. Worked with children and adults. Love nature, hiking, photography and drums. Retired living in DC.

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